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Follow guidelines to avoid delays, DOH tells donors.

This refers to Bernie V. Lopez's letter, Donations for Mindanao poor held by Customs (Opinion, 5/21/16). We wish to assure the public that the Department of Health (DOH) welcomes foreign donations intended for the upgrading of public health facilities and services, whether these are in the form of medicines or medical supplies and equipment.

However, for imported donations, the DOH has issued simple guidelines to ensure that the donations get to be used the best way it can and public health is not compromised. In this regard, we are requesting the cooperation of donors.

Under these guidelines, the DOH is not accepting expired or near-expiring drugs and obsolete and no-longer-usable equipment.

Also, donors are required to submit specific documents and to inform the DOH about their donation before shipping this to the Philippines. This is to avoid delays in the release of donations, which result in accumulating storage, demurrage and wharfage fees. The DOH may shoulder the taxes and custom duties of such donations, but under existing government accounting rules and regulations, it is forbidden to shoulder demurrage and other preventable charges.

The DOH is thankful to Montero Medical Missions (MMM) for supporting DOH's programs. However, we regret to say, its previous shipments have been problematic. In the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda, MMM shipped a 2A[euro]"40 container van supposedly containing medical supplies and equipment. But upon inspection, the van was found to contain about 100 boxes of chocolate cookies, T-shirts and rubber shoes apparently intended for commercial use. In April 2014, MMM's shipment to the Adela Serra Ty Memorial Medical Center, Surigao del Sur, contained expired or near-expiring medical supplies.

The shipment now in question arrived in Manila on May 20, 2015. The DOH was informed of its arrival only on June 15, 2015, through an e-mail signifying MMM's intent to donate and requesting consignment of the donation to the DOH. The DOH received all documentary requirements on June 18, 2015, and it subsequently approved MMM's request.

But with the DOH given no prior notice about the shipment, its release from the port has been delayed, for which reason the storage, demurrage and wharfage fees thereon continues to accumulate.

The Philippine Embassy in the United States e-mailed Dr. Juan Montero about the situation. MMM requested the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs to ask the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to waive the charges. Although we support MMM's request, it is for the BOC to grant or deny it.

On April 28, 2016, the DOH received from the BOC an abandonment order. The DOH repeatedly conveyed to Dr. Chris Buniel (MMM's Philippine representative) and its broker, Carlosa Tugado Brokerage Services, our intention to help MMM seek the lifting of the abandonment order. Buniel has not replied and the broker told us it has stopped working on the release of the shipment because the funds to pay for the demurrage fees have yet to be sourced.

The DOH has been in ongoing partnerships with other organizations without encountering problems. We look forward to working further with MMM and more philanthropic groups. All we ask is close coordination and compliance with existing DOH guidelines.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 2, 2016
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